Branded Content and the Power of Truth
Branded content is about the powerful intersection between brands, culture and people. It's not a discipline. It's a new mind-set and culture. It refers to a new way for brands to connect to people's hearts without interrupting their lives in the old, self-centered marketing way. It brings relevant messages that make sense to the audience.
Branded content is a rich territory of narratives that can amplify a brand's values by being fully oriented around what is really important to the audience. Otherwise it will not involve or engage. People seek out and dedicate their time to what is interesting and meaningful to them, and not because it belongs to a brand. Branded content is not advertising (traditional formats or long-form video), nor content marketing, nor any kind of product integration.
Branded content and advertising belong to different planets: While advertising is what the brand wants to say about itself, branded content is what the audience want to hear.
Abundance of information, absence of meaning
In today's postmodern reality of a hyperconnected, dispersive and hypermediatic world, the universal language is collapsed, the relations between people are mediated by images, and we keep reproducing micro spectacles of our daily life, as envision by Guy Debord, author of the book Society of the Spectacle, in 1967. We react to the facts with such haste and eagerness not to lose the timing of things, but we actually run a big risk of being infected by what is not true.
We are living in a world where there is more and more information and less meaning. However, the more technology advances, the more humanity prevails because technology intensifies the natural human need for emotional connection and stories that make us human.
So, brands must first choose the truth as a way to affect the audience before they decide to tell a story. When the brand's truth is in tune with people's truth through humanistic stories, it creates value and takes the relationship between brands and people to another level.
It doesn't work when a brand tries to camouflage a moment of sales talk through storytelling, even in an emotional way. This is a classic Trojan horse of marketing that simply does not stick anymore.
There are some great examples of meaningful brand narratives. Volvo's "Music of the Mind." Guinness' "Never Alone: Gareth's Story" (pictured above). Netscout's Lo and Behold documentary, directed by Werner Herzog. "Meet Cathleen," released by Dove and Shonda Rhimes as a part of Dove's "Real Beauty" campaign. The compelling "Justino" by the Spanish Lottery. The doc series "Humanity [in Me]" by Nestlé's Molico milk brand from Brazil.
The big marketing revolution happens when a brand really puts itself in people's shoes. But how? Embracing the commitment to represent society and dare to transform the culture as the catalyst of a broader conversation that is more people-oriented and less product-oriented. Telling relevant stories where the hero and protagonist is the audience.
It's about finding the perfect meeting between brand purpose and what is important and true to people, because good stories are bigger than products and humanize brands. It's about brand legacy.
The truth lies in the vulnerability
Original and authentic brand narratives that generate human identification and establish emotional connection are those in which the story is related to us, based on truth and made for real people.
The integrity and humanity of the brand story are guaranteed through the vulnerability of the characters and the courage of the brand to provoke a meaningful conversation about people without controlling the elements of the story.
Branded content is about relevance, meaning and truth. People forget what brands promise, say or do. But they never forget what brands make them feel.